SJA’s Olympic tour takes members closer to 2012

It will soon be the case that SJA members’ tours of London’s Olympic Park will be done on foot, between the MPC and the sport venues, while they are working.

IAN COLE reports on the progress seen yesterday

Taking shape: our members got a close-up to the Olympic preparations

Sixteen months until the London 2012 Games and SJA members have been escorted on their latest tour of the Olympic Park.

On the first, a couple of years ago, you needed wellies and waterproofs to negotiate torrents of mud as bowsers damped down the dust to protect the local environment.

Last year’s tour saw tons of steel and concrete rising from the reclaimed Stratford wastelands as the Olympic Park started to bring the architects’ drawings closer to realisation.

This time you could almost touch and feel the drama of the greatest show on earth as 30 or so SJA members were shown round the Park by Russ, our guide from LOCOG, and the SJA’s Mary Fitzhenry, who is Deputy Manager of Press Operations.

The Olympic Stadium, the Aquatics Centre, the Velodrome, the Basketball Arena…they all looked ready for action – from the outside, at least.

We passed the Athletes’ Village and the Main Press Centre with men in hard hats still fitting, fixing,  shovelling and cementing. Some of us will be working there next year with any luck.

The weird ArcelorMittal Orbit viewing tower grows by the day. It looks an elaborate mess of twisted metal, but maybe someone loves it.

This tour came in a week in which Frankie Fredericks had laid the last turf in the middle of the Olympic Stadium. And just 24 hours before our tour, a female security guard had been arrested for possessing explosive substances. The sniffer dog at the entrance barrier when we arrived looked suitably chastened over that.

Nearly done: behind schedule, the Aquatics Centre's roof is striking. Tour photos by Dave Moore

Our bus was a motley crew of journos. Sports editors past and present, like Tom Clarke, Paul Newman and Howard Wheatcroft, Olympic veterans like Neil Wilson, hockey specialist Peter Savage, furiously photographing the wilderness that will become the Hockey Arena.

Others, like myself, just wanted to sample the thrill of this great spectacle emerging on our doorsteps.

As Tom Clarke, doyen of sports editors, put it: “I just think I want to be part of it…”

Tue Apr 5: SJA Olympic Question Time
. Click here to find out more

Wed Apr 13: SJA 2011 Annual Meeting, at offices of UK Sport, Russell Square. Strictly SJA members only.

Wed Dec 7: SJA 2011 British Sports Awards – note the date in your diary now.

All details subject to alteration. Keep checking for updates